Over Come Panic/Anxiety and Agoraphobia Part V

Jane's homework was to practice observing various objects we chose at random—pen, drinking glass, table… At the beginning of the next session, I asked her to read me her written observations. Even with the focus on observation, she noticed how easy it was to still come to conclusions—table legs, clip… She was totally fascinated with the new world of “Observation” and found it relaxing to do.

I had her “on the path,” to recovery and now I wanted to shift to the cause of the “alarm” reaction of the GAS. The goal was to refocus—have her unequivocally understand that anytime she experienced what in the past she called “anxiety” her subconscious merely wanted to “run away” from a disappointment or a reminder of a disappointment. To “take it home,” I asked her to make a list of her disappointments. She told me I didn't have enough paper. She started describing the disappointing symptoms and how disappointing it is to always be in situations where she might feel them. I guided her away from these situational disappointments and onto her life's disappointments. She wrote and wrote and then started listing disappointments of which she was fearful in the future. She knew her husband loved her, yet she was fearful that he'd get fed up with her antics and divorce her.

By now generalization had begun and it was important for her to understand that it wasn't the lights in the store that were going to attack her, but they merely reminded her that she had a disappointment. She acknowledged that the problem just showed up with no reason and then she began wondering when it was going to happen again. And just as she feared, it started happening whenever she feared it would—open spaces, while driving, in stores… She practically became a prisoner in her home and could only go out if someone else drove her. Strangely, it was easier to feel the anxiety than it was to deal with the disappointments—at least with all the anxiety she had no time to deal with her disappointments.

She asked about when we were going to do biofeedback again and I informed her that at this time, biofeedback would only contribute to activation of her fight/flight. I wanted her to observe tension rather than try to get rid of it. In fact observation is the second step to change. Once she learns to make it OK to have tension in her chest muscles and her breathing, it could stop at that point with no need to kick it into Clara Weak's third stage.

I went on to share that the first step to change is to own the problem. To know that somehow she contributed to it. I asked her if she'd like to run off from her son, husband, sisters, mother… to Hawaii and start all over. She laughed and said, “No, I'd probably screw it up again.” But the bottom line was that she wouldn't abandon her family—she was too responsible. She was also a perfectionist and wanted things done right. In fact it was in the nature of her personality that contributed to her developing the flight response…and… her lack of understanding of the GAS contributed to her jumping to conclusions.

This all sounded too good to be true. I left her with a renewed outlook and more observation homework plus a challenge to refocus onto her actual disappointments—her son's issues, dealing with a change in relationship with her mother and sisters, fear of telling her husband the truth about why she was no happier in NJ than she was in Florida--more in the next part of this article.

Have you made a list of your life's disappointments? A bit depressing, right? In this portion of the article, we'll continue looking at Jane's plight. Why am I using Jane's experience?

Because it's the model upon which this program is based. I've worked with dozens and dozens of clients since Jane and in "every" case there were dramatic parallels with respect to personality, accumulation of disappointments, nutrition, assumptions or conclusions and each found peace from symptoms running their lives.